Michael Thornton Daniel Boico CTPO Bartók Strauss Holst #ConcertReview

Michael Thornton Daniel Boico CTPO Bartók Strauss Holst #ConcertReview

Reviewed by Andy Wilding

Conductor: Daniel Boico
Soloist: Michael Thornton, horn
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall Thursday 1 December 2016

Program: Bartók The Miraculous Mandarin Suite op. 19 – Strauss Horn Concerto no. 1 in E flat op.11 – Holst The Planets op, 32

The finale to the CTPO Spring Symphony Season was a sold out event featuring an action-packed program creating an atmosphere of high energy and excitement. There really is nothing like being in the audience on a night like this – you can book now for the Symphonic Picnic Concert, Green Point Track on Dec 18. Details of the CTPO Festive Season Concerts at the bottom of this page.

Great solos make exciting performances. Bartók’s primal, alien portrayal of a zombie who just wanted to be loved, offered mesmerizing moments to Daniel Prozesky clarinet, Beatrix du Toit bass clarinet, Sergei Burdukov oboe, and David Langford trombone, who mesmerised obligingly. The augmented percussion section was tremendous and synchronous with the miraculous CTPO.

Michael Thornton, Daniel Boico, CTPO

Michael Thornton’s Strauss Horn Concerto no.1 with Daniel Boico and the CTPO

Michael Thornton’s Siegfriedesqu opening of the Strauss concerto drew murmurs of satisfaction form the audience. We usually hear only glimpses of this heroic instrument shining out from behind the violins for a phrase or two. It was a pleasure indeed to have a concerto dedicated to the lovely mellow-toned horn. Thornton has clearly mastered the barely visible technique of an instrument that uses only 3 valves to produce every note. He demonstrated astonishing accuracy, culminating in semiquaver triplets at an impressively brisk allegro, third movement. His phrasing was dynamically expressive and he always found a good balance with Boico and the CTPO, always audible, never overbearing. I hope to hear Thornton’s Strauss 2 in the near future.

Michael Thornton Daniel Boico, Daniel Prozesky, Beatrix du Toit, Sergei Burdukov, David Langford, Christoph Muller, Stephan Galvin, Frank Mallows, Caroline Prozesky, Susanne Martens, Kristiyan Chernev, Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra #CapeTownPhilharmonicOrchestra, Andy Wilding #CTPO #ConcertReview #ClassicalConcertReview

Daniel Boico with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Spring Season finale: Holst Planets

After the interval, the atmosphere of excitement returned with the audience as they took their seats for the final act of the Spring Season – Holst’s Planets. Mars burst into synchronous staccato from every string player in a truly amazing performance of rhythmic mastery, brooding suspense, and cataclysmic explosions. In the hypnotic pentameter of 5/4, Boico brilliantly welded together overlapping parts with clear and concise gestures, seeming to play the entire orchestra. Jupiter’s arrival on billowing clouds of strings heralded another complex Rubicon of tempo changes and polyrhythms, nimbly navigated by helmsman Boico and a responsive CTPO. Exceptional performances by the percussion section, two completely synchronous timpanists finishing each other sentences (Christoph Muller and Stephan Galvin) and the immaculate accurate Frank Mallows on the Glockenspiel.

There are four awards for #ShowStealer in the category “Starry Eyed Impressions of Venus”: Caroline Prozesky horn, Susanne Martens violin, Sergei Burdukov oboe and Kristiyan Chernev cello. Aphrodite absolutely.

“The Industrial Sound And Magic” award goes to Marek Pinsky’s invisible angel choir from the realm of Neptune, which had every audience member searching the stage for singers hiding among the violas, guessing at off-stage sopranos, or preferring not to ask in case the voices were inside their heads.

Dont miss more CTPO magic on Dec 9, Dec 18, Dec 31, Jan 7, Jan 14, and Jan 22!!
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS http://www.cpo.org.za/calendar/

Michael Thornton, Daniel Boico, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra

Michael Thornton and Daniel Boico at the reception after the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Spring Season finale

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#ConcertReview: Peter Klatzow 70th Birthday Concert – Liesl Stoltz, Frank Mallows, Victor Yampolsky

#ConcertReview: Peter Klatzow 70th Birthday Concert – Liesl Stoltz, Frank Mallows, Victor Yampolsky

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Works composed by Peter Klatzow

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall, Thursday 29 January 2015

 

Peter Klatzow at his 70th Birthday Concert with conductor Victor Yampolsky

Peter Klatzow at his 70th Birthday Concert with conductor Victor Yampolsky

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Three Paintings By Irma Stern – “Arab Priest” “River Landscape, Congo” “Peach Blossoms”
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
The orchestra opens on a mysterious romantic scene, rich in colours, with an appropriately arabesque mode. Before long, I found myself wondering why we do not hear more from Klatzow, since he really is very listenable even to the untrained ear. His signature percussion-rich scoring adds excitement and punctuation to his vibrant often playful style. Not long into the concert I was already making notes to play these pieces on FMR – I feel that we should know them and celebrate them.

The second movement is modern sounding yet fittingly pastoral, with (call me crazy) strings hinting of Brazilian Bossa Nova?! Loved it! The river builds into a turbulent section with tricky passages by flute and clarinet – reliably handled by Gabriele von Durkheim and Beatrix du Toit – then sweeps into expansive majesty with adventurous under-currents.

Understandably, copyright allowed only a black and white thumbnail reproduction of Irma Stern’s paintings in the program, but if Klatzow’s last movement is anything to go by, then we are to believe that these are by far and wide the most extraordinary, magnificently out of this world peach blossoms in all of existence! Splashed entries from across the orchestra would not be out of place describing Jackson Pollock, and I enjoyed searching for the instrument that was surprising us with so much exquisite wonder, in a delicious blend of modal melody structures and extended romantic tonalities.

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Liesl Stoltz flute, Victor Yampolsky conductor, Frank Mallows marimba

Soloists in Klatzow’s Double Concerto for Flute, Marimba and Strings: Liesl Stoltz and Frank Mallows

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Double Concerto for Flute, Marimba and Strings
Liesl Stoltz flute, Frank Mallows marimba, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
From the insanely technical introduction by strings (very well played) that leads directly into the marimba entry, it is clear that this work is highly demanding for soloists and orchestra. Mallows’ Marimba playing had my full attention for the entire exposition. He has a good balance with the orchestra – no easy feat in this hall, which has been known to swallow up the performances of lesser soloists. His four-mallet rotation technique is mind-bending and far reaching, creating a rippling effect like the surface of a pond in which two fish are frolicking. The part is witty and quirky, as if spoken by curious and fascinating alien who’s language one somehow understands, watching and listening enamoured as each sentences concludes with a satisfying and reassuring fifth or octave.

Stoltz’s flute was a lyrical soaring melody, occasionally passionate and insistent, overlaying the marimba’s rapid ostinatos. She brought her own fire, standing her ground in a stunning rich mezzo tone, often independent from the orchestra and marimba. I enjoyed the nod to Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and again made a note to play this work on FMR – coming up!

At the epicentre of all the excitement, Yampolsky was the mast on which everything hung at various angles and tangents, holding it all together.

 

The Healing Melody
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
I had a similar feeling about this work as I had for Klatzow’s “Congratulations!” written last year to celebrate the orchestra’s 100 year anniversary – I immediately engaged with it, swept up by it’s pace and excitement, wondering at it’s vibrant colours and shining peeling layers of brilliance, and then it was gone! It is not a short work, but so packed full of action that I feel quite unqualified to comment further before hearing it at least a few more times!

 

Brahms Symphony No.5 (Orchestration of String Quintet Op.111)
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Victor Yampolsky
Few among us are in a position to explore the musings that we may have at some point listening to great classical composers, that move along the lines of: If Brahms had written a 5th symphony, what would it sound like? Musing is easy, manifesting requires a composer of great skill, even if the answer is an orchestration of an existing work. I am both flabbergasted and excited by this chamber work that Klatzow has augmented into a symphony.

There are many examples of works, largely for piano, that have enjoyed the destiny of becoming symphonic works: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by both Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel orchestrated many of his own piano works, Tchaikovsky’s orchestration of Schumann’s Carnival … but not so many can become a symphony as conveniently as this sonata-form viola quintet. As Brahms’ last work, it strikes a believable candidacy for becoming a 5th Symphony. Klatzow reveals in this work as much ear and soul in it’s accomplishment as he does in academic accolade. I found his part assignment convincing to the ear and believable of Brahms’ own voicings, and it boggles the mind how a 5 voiced quintet can become 10 voices or more in orchestration – where on Earth does he find all those extra notes?

I would agree with Klatzow’s observation in the program, that “Brahms would [probably] have composed a more substantial finale for the work, had it ended up a symphony”, and perhaps this observation applies to the whole work – Brahms may have reworked the entire piece for a much thicker, more substantial sound, perhaps developing one or two themes into the kind of anthems that we associate with the other symphonies. However, I found the arrangement delicious and easily repeatable.

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Concert Review: Crumb Kaleidoscope –  Fismer Hall, Woordfees

Concert Review: Crumb Kaleidoscope – Fismer Hall, Woordfees

Reviewed by Andrew Wilding

Dieter Weberpals (dizi), Caroline Oltmanns & James Wilding (piano), Magdalena de Vries & Frank Mallows (percussion)
Fismer Hall, Endler Concert Series, Woordfees Sunday 15 March 2015

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Crumb Kaleidoscope is a concept show about George Crumb featuring the pianists Caroline Oltmanns and James Wilding, with works by Bach, Chopin, Crumb, Herman Hupfield, James Wilding and others. The show was commissioned by the Bavarian Rundfunk Nürnberg, performed and broadcast in Germany in 2014. Hupfield’s 1931 classic As Time Goes By is an idée fixe, threading the eclectic program together like a transformational catalyst, often bridging two pieces together. The concept of the show is an exploration of time and timelessness, that juxtaposes ancient and modern sounds.

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Weberpals’ dizi, a Chinese flute, opens with a melody in free rhythm, a breathy, ethereal, decidedly ancient sound invoking the mists of time. The melody transforms into a two-piano arrangement of Hupfield’s As Time Goes By, and then merges back into the archaic mist. The dizi is an aloof, speechless master of ceremonies, observing and seldom becoming involved, yet remaining part of the mechanics of time that introduces the pieces by hinting at the melody in a charming, ancient, breathy kind of way.

I enjoyed the unusual arrangement of Bach’s Jesus bleibet meine Freunde, for piano and tubular bells, for that clerical flavour! Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu was exquisitely performed by Oltmans, demonstrating amazing finger control and exceptional pedal technique.

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The Crumb works were spectacular, often requiring the pianists to reach into the instrument and pluck or strum the strings, which in itself accomplishes the ancient / modern juxtaposition – producing an ancient sound resembling a zither or lyre, from a modern instrument. Rich percussion amplifies the wonder of Crumb’s work, and we were extremely fortunate to experience the duo of Magdalena de Vries and Frank Mallows, literally in their element – surrounded by every kind of resonant substance. Exotic additions from China and Africa extended their sound into the depths of time, and all of this looked fantastic, but when it comes to technique this duo is truly amazing. There were times were it sounded like four percussionists! They are extremely accurate and have a good sense of what the other is doing.

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Throughout the show I often found myself musing about the concept – it ties so many disparate works together in a way that makes for a thoroughly entertaining musical journey. That journey comes to a climax in The Space Between Love and Death (J. Wilding).

This work encompasses ancient 1000 year old African and Chinese sounds, fused with classical 100 year old piano technique, woven together with a modern 60 year old song. The work feels like the centre of the maze. Composed for all the many instruments on the stage, it features a masterful use of the two-piano dialogue, in which each piano sounds surprisingly distinct. It could have been the wide stereo effect of positioning the pianos at opposite ends of the stage, but certainly these two pianists each have an individual sound. This work is also an impressive and challenging showcase for the percussionists, who both have their hands full, as well as flautist Weberpals, who finds the way back to As Time Goes By and is joined by tubular bells chiming seconds ticking past – a genius little detail in orchestration! Gathering speed again, the idée fixe receives a climactic Russian late romantic treatment that rushes into a shining glimmering riveting coda! What a piece!

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The concept show Crumb Kaleidoscope features an old recording of "As Time Goes By" played on a gramophone

A wind-up gramophone performs “As Time Goes By”

Like an honoured guest invited onto the stage (for old times sake) a wind-up gramophone performs Rudi Vallee’s 1931 recording of As Time Goes By from an original shellac record. This is first time we hear the full version of the idée fixe, but it’s function is deeper than a mere statement – the crackling sound of the record triggers two following imitations:
1. A variation on the dizi technique involving a vibrating piece of rice paper glued to the mouthpiece, using (the traditional) garlic juice! The result is an over-driven, harder sound that mimics the distortion on the record
2. Crumb’s Morning Music, a work that prepares the piano with sheets of paper on the strings, that crackle when those notes are played, again imitating the sound of the record.

If I had to pick highlights from each half, the first half would be The Space Between Love and Death, and the second half would be Crumb’s magnificent Twin Suns, in 15 beats. A demanding monster, it has all hands inside both pianos, and treacherous percussion entries, but last Sunday’s performance was spectacular. Crumb demands a lot with a time signature of 15/8. He also expects pianists to master avant guard piano techniques like holding down a chord without the hammers striking and strumming it inside the piano, or isolating notes from a sustained chord and then releasing the pedal to leave the chord sounding. Part of the preparation also involves marking certain strings that need to be plucked.

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Crumb Kaleidoscope is a deeply conceptual yet highly accessible show that makes sense on many levels. Having seen it only this one time I feel that it contains far too many juicy layers to get it all the first time, and I hope to see it at least another few times to get to know it better!

PROGRAM

PART I

1. The Timelessness of Time J. Wilding (b. 1973) after
G. Crumb (b. 1929)

2. Play it Once, Sam, for Old Time’s Sake H. Hupfeld (1894-1951)
arr. J. Wilding

3. Passage J. Wilding

4. Jesus bleibet meine Freude J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
arr. M. Hess (1890-
1965) and J. Wilding

5. Passage J. Wilding

6. Fantaisie Impromptu F. Chopin (1810-1849)

PART II

7. A Call from Afar J. Wilding after Hou Yu-
tzung (1910-1992)
and G. Crumb

8. Zai na yaoyuan de difang (In That Remote Place) W. Luobin (1913-1996)
arr. J. Wilding

9. Ghost-Nocturne for the Druids of Stonehenge G. Crumb

10. Bronze Dragons J. Wilding after G. Crumb

11. Berceuse G. Faure (1845-1924)

12. Passage J. Wilding

13. Übungstück No. 9 F. Gulda (1930-2000)
arr. J. Wilding

PART III

14. The Space Between Love and Death J. Wilding

Intermission

PART IV

15. As Time Goes By H. Hupfeld

16. Morning Music G. Crumb

17. Passage J. Wilding

18. Hungarian Dance in G minor, Bk. 1, No. 1 J. Brahms (1833-1897)

19. Passage J. Wilding

20. Twin Suns G. Crumb

PART V

21. Moon Setting J. Wilding after G. Crumb

22. Je Te Veux E. Satie (1866-1925)

23. Beta Cygni G. Crumb

PART VI

24. Dream Images G. Crumb

25. The Advent G. Crumb

26. Play it Again, Sam J. Wilding after H. Hupfeld
and G. Crumb